by Michæl W. Bard
©2008 Michæl W. Bard

Home -=- #20 -=- ANTHRO #20 Stories
-= ANTHRO =-

   “Oh, come on!”
   Jon looked around, at all the boys at the orphanage. “It’s not—”
   “What are you, a wimp?” another boy hissed.
   “It’s a fur,” said the leader. “A hateful, bed-ruining, food-poisoning fur. Nobody’ll care!”
   Jon looked from face to face to face. Unlike most of the others, he hadn’t been born into this, hadn’t been abandoned, or taken from non-certified parents. His were dead; his father years ago, his mother just now. He was in the State-run orphanage because he had no other family. This isn’t right! But—
   “Oh come on, it’ll be fun. We’ll show them who’s boss.”
   “You’re human, right? Not a fur lover?”
   “Fur lover! Fur lover!”
   “Fine!” Jon hissed through clenched teeth. “Fine! We’ll—we’ll show them who runs the planet!”
   “Yeah, now you got it!”
   The group of boys then ran down the hall. They kicked open the door to the private room the fur got—they always got special treatment!—and burst in.
   The little anthro filly didn’t even have time to scream before the beatings started.
   And continued. Night after night.
   She committed suicide a week later by slitting her wrists with a piece of broken glass.

   And eighteen years later…

   “Shuttle Gustav, you read?”
   “I’ve got you, Florida Control.”
   “Just calling to pass on a message. There’s a report of a little girl missing. Doubt you have anything to do with that, but just covering all bases.”
   Jon sighed. “Umm… Control? I burned an extra,” he checked the readout, “hundred-fifty kilos fuel. Didn’t think the weather was that bad. And you know how flexible they are about manifests and stated cargo—”
   “Sorry about this, Jon, I’ve got her at about 15 kilos. Going to have to ask you to check.”    
“Gotcha, Control. Just left Tether Station Three, and I’m still on schedule to dock with High York at… fifteen thirty-seven Greenwich. I’ll get back to you before then.”
   “Good luck, Jon.”
   Grumbling and cursing, Jon switched off the transmit. Damn tourists! Well, if somebody had tried to sneak aboard, he’d find her and then let the Company worry about it. He’d been nervous enough about the fuel. As long as it’s not one of those stinking furs…
   Slipping his headset onto its clip as he unbelted, Jon pulled himself back to the cargo hatch. Everything he was carrying was relatively fragile and breakable; hard cargos were fired into orbit by one of the equatorial accelerators. If she’d been in one the boxes, maybe she wouldn’t have any broken bones.
   Of course, if she was a fur, he wouldn’t shed a tear. They deserved what they got, taking all the social assistance dollars. Living off his taxes just because the damn Brains were apologetic over the abuses they’d suffered a century ago. Bloody useless burdens…
   Jon had said that so loud to be with his friends, that he was coming to believe it. Friends made it easier to run from the blood on his hands.
   Grabbing his datapad, Jon pulled himself through the hatch and began checking off the cargo he had access to, working his way through the manifest, grumbling the whole time. The bigger containers were welded shut, mostly luxury goods for High York or New Ceres. The smaller items were a mixed bag, mostly personal. Some marked for transshipment to Anderson or Farside. He snorted—one was even marked for Mars!
   Those cookies would be stale by the time they got there.
   There wasn’t much cargo he had access to, or that a stowaway would. So it didn’t take him long to find a door hanging askew on its hinges. Probably during lift-off. “Fifty-Seven-Alpha-Thirty-Five—” He pulled it up on the manifest. “Carved wood shelves, foam packing, mass fifty-seven point eight kilos.” God knows who that’s for. Must have cost a damn fortune to ship up. Never mind; not my business how someone else wastes their money. Still, depending on the depth of packing—
   He pulled the door open, having to brace himself to move it. If she’s in there, she damn well better not have thrown up… “Hello?”
   “Are we in heaven?” The voice had a lisp, distinctive of a muzzled fur. And he could smell her odour. At least there wasn’t vomit or anything. Goddamn furs.
   “Get out of there. We’re not in heaven.”
   “O—okay sir—”
   There was movement inside the crate, and bits of packing foam drifted out. That crap was a bitch to clean up. Just like a fur to create needless extra work for others. No wonder everybody says furs are weights on society.
   A tiny form pushed herself into the dim light of the cargo hold. It was some kind of deer, definitely anthro. Tiny. No blood, no sign of broken bones, though she was bruised. He grabbed her drifting form before she slammed into something. Last thing he needed was blood all over. Blood like when that fur had slit her wrists—Don’t think about it! The fur had it coming.
   She looked up at him from huge red eyes. He could see dampness on her muzzle.
   Jesus—He grabbed her by her arm, so hard she whimpered, and shoved himself back towards the control cabin. Bloody—
   “Ow—Are you a—a angel?”
   He stopped their motion at the hatch and roughly spun her around to look at her. “Look. Kid. This isn’t heaven, and I’m not an angel.” And you’re a bloody worthless fur, a drain on society.
   She sniffled and a bit of slime drifted from her mouth as she struggled not to cry.
   “Bloody hell, kid..!”
   “Can you take me to heaven? My mommy is there.”
   “I can’t take you to heaven. I could send you there—” He’d like to, but he couldn’t just kill her—And—He hadn’t killed the horse! The blood wasn’t on his hand. She’d done it herself; reduced the surplus population. “Come on.” He pulled himself through the hatch, dragging her, and pushed himself back into his seat.
   Why did it have to be a fur? It had been so much easier to quote the words, spout the hate. Natural reflex. It was the way things were.
   But she was so young…
   Of course, his was the only seat… Oh, hell. “Get on my lap, kid.” Letting her float in place, he strapped himself in, and then pulled her into his lap.
   “Thank—thank you.” She sniffled some more. “Mommy isn’t here. They—they told me she is in heaven.”
   “In heaven?”
   “Heaven is in the sky. They taught me that in church.”
   He blinked. Why me? And why..? He remembered his mother, she’d died when he was young. He looked at the kid. Damn fur—he just wanted to dump her. Didn’t he? The bloody horse had it coming… He checked: Another forty-five minutes before docking. And six against one had been so fair. Ah, hell—
   “Kid, this ain’t heaven. I don’t even go there. When we dock, I’ll hand you over to some men who’ll take you back to your par—father.” Yeah, let the Company worry about her.
   “No parents.” She reached up to wipe tears away as her body shivered, and he held her form tightly to keep her from drifting away.
   Of course, no parents. Nobody wanted a fur. Reaching around her, trying to push her out of his mind, he put on his headset and clicked on the transmit. “Florida Control, this is Gustav. You read me?”
   Gustav, we read you. That didn’t take long.”
   The damn fur started sobbing, and he held her tight even before he knew what he was doing. It was all in the design—these were probably originally gengeneered as toys for some rich bastard. “I found the stowaway. Don’t think any bones are broken. No external injury.”
   “Thanks. We’ll radio High York and have somebody waiting for her.”
   He stroked her back as she sobbed. Like his mother had held him when his father had passed away. His stepmother had never held him that way—
   “Florida, does… does she have family?”
   “Checking… no, just a State guardian. She was on her way to a State home when she ran away.”
   “Oh. Thank you. I’ll keep an eye on her. Gustav out.” Jesus—He remembered when the staff had found the horse’s body. He remembered scrubbing the blood out of the floor along with the others… So much blood…
   “Florida Control out.”
   He clicked the transmit off. “Come on—it’s okay—” Her fur was soft to the tough as her tiny body shivered and sobbed against his shoulders.
   Furs were easy to hate. Easy to go with the flow, make friends by doing what they thought was right even when your soul screamed it was wrong. Until you shut your soul up, rationalized the wrongness away. It was easy to hate when you drank and fought in bars with other humans, and bitched about furs.
   There was immigration to New Ceres fostered by the Company; best rates were for furs. He’d bitched about that, too.
   But now… well, it was just different when one of them was sobbing on your shoulder.
   He remembered his hell in a state home before he was adopted. There had been two other furs. They’d never been adopted. One ended up crippled for life…
   “I—sorry—” She rubbed at her eyes. “I was told heaven was in the sky—And—and mommy was there, and—and I want—wanted to see her—”
   “It’s—it’s okay—” What the hell am I going to do? So easy to hate until a little—fawn—was sitting on your lap. Easy to go with the flow. “Do you want to see heaven?”
   She sniffled. “Can I..?”
   “Sure! Now, I don’t know where your mother is in heaven, but we can take a look. Just hold on for a moment.”
   Jon flicked some switches and jerked the joystick. What was a little more fuel? The shuttle twisted around and the window darkened as the sun moved past, lightening thereafter. Soon, there were only stars—millions and billions of them. Holding her as loosely as he dared, he turned her around so she could look out.
   The stars glittered on her wide black eyes.
   “Now, let’s see if we can find which star your mother is at, okay?”

   She lasted only a quarter-hour before dozing off. Little thumbhoof in her little muzzle, eyes closed and trusting…
   Maybe it was time to break away from the past. Maybe it was time to listen to his soul.
   He lowered his voice to a whisper as he flicked on the transmit. “Florida Control, Gustav. You there?”
   Gustav? I can barely make you out. Is there a problem?”
   “No problem; the kid’s asleep.”
   “Could I ask you a favour?”
   “Umm… sure…”
   “My stowaway. I, ah, I’m thinking about, adoption.”
   “You—adopt a fur?” The voice was full of honest surprise. Of course; it’s not like I ever made any secret of my attitude…
   “Yeah. Me. I… well, I’ve been in the State homes. Human or fur, nobody deserves to live in that kind of hellhole. And… she’s kinda grown on me.”
   The voice sighed. “This better not be a scam—”
   “It’s not!” Hell with everybody else. Maybe—maybe I can dream about Mother again… “I… ah, hell. It’s just… Look, somebody’s got to do something right around here, okay?”
   The voice brightened a bit. “Understood, Jon. I’ll poke at the Legal databases; maybe I can get temporary guardianship for you by the time you dock.” Then it went dark. “But if anything happens to her…”
   “I—it won’t.” Maybe it’s not too late for me… “Thanks.”
   “Good luck, Jon.”
   Gently stroking the little fawn, he looked out the window, at the stars, at heaven. Mother, I’m sorry—I’ll try now. Really. I promise.
   I promise.

Home -=- #20 -=- ANTHRO #20 Stories
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